Eye For Film >> Movies >> Pride And Prejudice And Zombies (2016) Film Review
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies
Reviewed by: Luke Shaw
Before I begin, I beg an indulgence - like the film with its late title card, I want to lay down some lines so that everything else I write just makes sense.
Is there a casting agency that deals entirely with requests for actors who play zombies? Do they categorise them based on basic attributes? Excellent Shambler but a bit out of shape so cannot be used for action takes. Sprinter. Brings own primer makeup, happy to be slathered in copious amounts of fake blood. Bullet point - Was in the video for Thriller - long time industry zombie-veteran!
With the ubiquity of the “just add zombies” of film making, I wouldn’t be surprised. I wonder if it’s more like a cross-referencing database, where casting directors can see if an actor has been both a zombie and whatever it is that they need for their film: sci-fi extra and zombie extra - too far out. World War 2 extra and zombie extra - closer… Elizabethan costume extra and zombie - bingo!
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is based on the popular adaptation Pride And Prejudice. It has missed out on the apex of Zombie infatuation by a few years, presumably because Jane Austen has been oscillating so violently in her grave that she has managed to disrupt the making of the film, altering telluric currents and skewing ley lines to delay it from its inception (2009) to its release (2016), her spectre looming large over the seven directors who woke from fitful slumber, all cold sweats and fevered brows, muttering things about images of Colin Firth reaching out to them from a lake with a decaying hand.
Immune to such superstitions, or perhaps accompanied on set at all times by a cadre of Vatican exorcists, is Burr Steers, the man unlucky enough to be in charge of re-writing and directing this half-cocked attempt at a kitsch genre smash. Things start off well enough. The Bennets are still educated ladies, this time educated in books and martial arts. They lace each other up for balls in scenes oddly reminiscent of Picnic At Hanging Rock, and proceed to show their marital and martial appeal when a party is interrupted by a horde of zombies.
Lily James bares her wit and her teeth as Elizabeth Bennet, and she does about as well as she could do with a script that can’t decide whether it wants to repackage or repurpose Austen’s original work, instead falling down the crevice in between. Darcy is present and correct, though Sam Riley’s voice carries far further than his image - Firth he is not - and they largely play off each other well. Indeed, the scene that most epitomises and perhaps validates the mash-up is when Elizabeth and Darcy argue through simultaneous verbal barbs and physical blows - it marks the only time the film seems to realise that gunning for high camp is far more enjoyable than a mealy mouthed approach to appeasing both the serious and the delirious.
The ancillary cast do workman jobs, with a special mention going to Charles Dance for managing to look at least partially engaged as Mr Bennet, and Lena Heady for a typically steely turn as “England’s greatest warrior” Catherine de Bourgh, but the real star of the show is Matt Smith as Parson Collins. Perhaps a remnant from an earlier script, or maybe even Steers' influence on the film, Smith is a whirlwind of excess, effeteness and exasperation - he wobbles around like a vaudevillian fop, his vocal tics and adherence to archaic social expectations in a world beset by flesh-eating zombies provide a consistent thread of entertainment throughout what is an utterly ghastly experience.
There is a bigger plot, shenanigans involving the appearance of The Four Horsemen, zombies who herald the forthcoming war that will supposedly end the human race, as well as a conspiracy between humans and less feral zombies to accelerate this process, but it feels like it is happening outside of the scope of the film, maybe a relic from an earlier draft, or wishful franchise crafting in the vein of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but seeing as this is very much a shambler and not a sprinter, it’s doubtful they will ever amount to anything. Spin on, Austen, and continue your dark work.Reviewed on: 05 Feb 2016